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This question already has an answer here:

SO, I'm just an enthusiast who's been doing some reading - and I don't have the level of math training to get my answer from the equations - so I apologize in advance if this is a stupid question.

I have been reading about the photon interference patterns in the double-slit and interferometer experiments...and how photons, even sent individually, will create an 'interference pattern with themselves' due to the duality of their wave-particle nature. I've also been reading about the theoretical (almost philosophical) explanations for decoherence such as 'multi-world' and the Copenhagen Wavefunction Collapse theories.

The question:

It seems that all of these experiments could be explained not by the photon having a constant dual wave-particle nature, but if it swapped completely in and out of one or the other.

I.e. when traveling 'uninterfered'* through empty spacetime (vacuum) the photon is entirely waveform with no particle characteristics. Upon interacting with something that can absorb and reflect (or eject new energy from a metastable state) the entire energy of the wave (not wavefunction but actual energy of the wave) collapses back into a point-area, before metastasizing (correct term?) back into wave energy (reflected).

Using a classical analogy, a (particulate) droplet of water falls onto the surface of a pond. At the point of contact, the droplet - for all intents and purposes - ceases to exist and becomes entirely wave energy in the form of a ripple.

The analogy breaks down when the wave, instead of expending it's energy evenly over the length of the shore; at the first point of contact with the shore, the ENTIRETY of the ripple's energy collapses - physically - back into a 'point', after which some of the energy is absorbed, but the remaining energy is again expressed - from that point - back out into the pond entirely as wave energy.

*I use the term 'interfered with' instead of observed, to avoid the idea that actual measurement must occur. Based on the above, anytime the wave energy interacts with something that can absorb/reflect any ratio of it - it collapses and then re-expresses - regardless of whether observed or not.

Thus, if the photon was reflected off two mirrors before being collected and 'observed', the process would still occur.

Has this already been addressed and discarded?

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marked as duplicate by John Rennie, AccidentalFourierTransform, user36790, Jon Custer, peterh Dec 10 '16 at 2:05

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Ignoring the very difficult idea of all of the energy somehow magically collapsing back to a point, you'll find that the delayed quantum eraser experiments thoroughly challenge your idea. In those experiments, the light acts like a particle or a wave, but the decision as to which it behaves like occurs after the detector has sensed the light. With mainstream quantum mechanics, this is easily explained without causality violation, but trying to explain the behavior of this experiment with your system would require the future to interact with the past.

(Which is something some theories do explore, but with great mathematical rigor)

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  • $\begingroup$ I've read the quantum eraser experiment, but I don't fully grasp it yet. I'll have to go back and read again :) I agree with the "difficult idea...[of] ...magically collapsing back to a point"...although, don't most of the theories (basically) involve a magic step that defies a mathematical expression. Wasn't the 'magicalness' of the Copenhagen explanation one of the reasons physicists are so uncomfortable with it? $\endgroup$ – BurningKrome Dec 9 '16 at 8:52
  • $\begingroup$ What you describe involves non-locality. Non-locality is a bugger for quantum mechanics, because we like to think behaviors are all local, but QM has several counter examples. However, because we have a preference for locality, the QM interpretations are all very careful with how they go about it. Copenhagen, for example, has a very clear mathematical expression defining exactly how the waveform collapse works.. and yet, as you point out, it's still something that makes some physicists uncomfortable. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Dec 9 '16 at 15:12

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